IN THE RAIN | YANAKA GINZA & KABUKICHO

The only good thing about rain when you’re travelling is...well, magic. In photos, at least.

YANAKA GINZA | TOKYO 2014

Decidedly less glamorous is the process by which these photos were taken – one clear umbrella to share in pouring rain, frequent stopping and starting, hands up to shield the lens (always) and speed-shooting before running under the cover again. Kudos to Cissy for putting up my definitely not-pro-photographer practice

Yanaka Ginza is a small street near Nippori station, famous for its preservation of the shitamachi flavour of old Tokyo. Small, eclectic stalls are lined up next to each other, their wares ranging widely from a fish monger to a store specialising in bowls and cutlery. Once upon a time, this bustling strip of stores was all that anyone needed.

Nowadays, it’s a curious little slice of old Japan, existing in miniature with its old owners and workers still faithfully serving their small stores, quite protectively I might add. The old obaasan who gestured fiercely and yelled 'no photos!' as I absently aimed my camera in her shop's direction (admittedly, I missed the little 'no cameras' sticker on one of her shop posts) was the most forceful person I've ever met in Japan.

I can't help but wonder what led to her vehement rejection of photographs since you would usually expect a store to be open to publicity and documentation - but it seems to be a bit of a thing in small stores in Asia. Admittedly, there is a sense of exploitation and dismissal in going into a store, snapping photographs and leaving without buying anything - almost a sense of 'stealing' the essence of their wares without compensating them. Which is why I try to only snap photos of wares if I do end up buying something or if I really can't afford anything...still a bit of a conundrum though.

yanaka ginza, nippori, tokyo, japan, travel, travel photography, sketch and run, rainy day, rain, lights
yanaka ginza, nippori, tokyo, japan, travel, travel photography, sketch and run, rainy day, rain, lights

KABUKICHO

We dropped by Shinjuku's Kabukicho as the sun went down, the neon lights came on and the rain was easing. For an red-light district, it was very understated, at least in comparison to Amsterdam (according to Cissy), with as many restaurants and bars as brothels and cabaret clubs. Though, thinking about it, discreet is probably the general approach to a red light district that actually still wants to be one, instead of a tourist attraction, but who am I to judge?

All that serves to let you know it’s a red light district is the disproportionate number of businessmen and a glimpse of photographs of naked girls if you lift the opaque covers over the entrance of some small stores (or watch someone leaving it). Particularly amusing are the posters advertising host clubs that depict the hosts who work there - the 2006 era Johnny's Entertainment long hair has still not gone out of fashion. Amazing.

And if you’re like me, you’ll be so into photographing a funny restaurant sign that you completely miss the giant robot restaurant display right behind you, complete with waving promotion staff.